Over the course of the last couple months we made slow but steady
progress with the soffit and facia around the back side of the structure
and did a excavating out front and moved dirt to the rear building up
the grade enough to make putting up the rain gutter much easier than it
would have been otherwise.
The gutter runs the whole length of the roof along the back side and is
gently inclined to shunt water to a downspout at the east end. Only the
downspout is not yet in place and I have a small tub that was
origionally the end cut out of a plastic barrel (a future planter) to
diffuse the stream of water coming down. What I need to do is get the
motivation to purchase a big plastic cistern tank to catch and hold the
rainwater - which is great stuff for watering orchids, bromeliads and
Speaking of - the conservatory section of the interior has been
transformed into a tropical garden. Blooming now are a couple orchid
species - Nagelliana (formerly "Hartwegia") purpurea- a really neat
miniature with deep red almost purple blooms, a dwarf ginger from
Bolivia with flowers that look like a ruffled yellow saucer, plus a
couple bromeliads- Neoregellia ampullacea has tiny light blue blooms in
its little cup while Guzmania lingulata splendens are sending up their
bright red spikes. Two more orchids - the not really beautiful but
bizzare Mormolyca ringens and Oncidium carthagenensis are fading fast.
The latter I am especially pleased because it turned out to be a nice
colorful clone like the illustration in the Golden Guide to Orchids as
opposed to the dingy flowered one I had before.
Another bromeliad in bloom is Tillandsia mallemontii which hails from
Brazil and looks just like the "Ball Moss" that grows on trees and even
telephone lines in Florida - but instead of pale chartruse green flowers
it has pale blue! Have several clumps hanging in a six foot Carolina Ash
that sits bare root in the greenhouse pond. Plus a few other epiphytes.
Have alot of foliage plants as well- two forms of the Prayer Plant,
Calatheas - musaica, rotundifolia and that plain green leaved unknown
plus a couple seedings of the "peacock" plant - which I cannot recall
the botanical name just arrived today with an order from Glasshouse
Works. Also quite a few others- Sellaginella (tropical club mosses).
various ferns , Pepperomias, and a genus of terrestrial bromeliads
called Earthstars. Of them I have a couple forms of Cryptanthus
bivitatus- the green and red striped species including three really huge
ones from Lowes that may be marginatus - aka bivitatus major- and today
I just added the plain green leaved species acaulis and another
bivitatus clone called "Chocolate Soldier" and I set four really nice
tall Billbergia nutans among the earthstars and Calathea plants.
The ground cover in the growing area is either cypress mulch with a
little coconut husk chips or "Tropical Ground Moss"that I've been
getting from a supplier in Florida- nice stuff for the greenhouse and
terrariums. It looks something like the native cushion moss and is
probably in the same genus but more tollerant of warm growing
Perhaps one of my most spectacular plants is the Anthurium
berriozabalense - a Mexican species with huge heart shaped leaves that I
took a fancy to when I first encountered it at the US Botanical Garden
in Washington DC years ago. I recieved mine from a grower in eastern
Pennsylvania who sent me this huge plant with all the soil washed off
and the roots packed in spahgnum moss. Surprisingly it recovered rather
quickly and threw up several more dinner plate sized leaves!
Anthuriums are a favorite group of plants. I also have three A. hookeri
which get hughe ribbed leaves and grow about 3 feet high. A.
clarinervium which has dark green heart shaped leaves with bold white
veins. A. Sherizerianum the pretty red flowered species from Costa Rica
that is still to young to bloom and A. scandens - a creeper that bears
pearly white berries. I'm really regretful to have lost Anthurium bakeri
- an epiphytic species with strap like leaves and red berries that comes
from Central America. Want it really bad but can't find it anywhere!
Anthuriums are tropical aroids (arums) that range from Mexico to
Argentina and the West Indies. Other aroids in the greenhouse are
Syngonuims (arrowhead vines) Philodendrons and a couple Monstera
species. Really don't have time and space to get into all the different
plants that have accumulated over the last few months - some day I will
have to publish a list of everything!
I also have palms- a huge potted Bamboo Palm- Chameadorea sp. plus two
pots of the the closely related Parlor Palm - C. elegans that are
currently in quarantine for a slight touch of mealy bugs. And a single
potted seedling Dwarf Palmetto - Sabal minor - sole survivor of three
that were supposed to be hardy here (So much for the McCurtain Arkansas
strain!) A few days ago I discovered that I also have a bumper crop of
seedlings from the same species germinating from seed I collected near
Maple Hill NC last Fall.!
The animal life is far less numerous, but slowly on the increase. The
greenhouse pond supports two species of fish- Starhead Topminnows -
Fundulus escambiae and a school of Coastal Shiners - Notropis petersoni.
The latter were the result of mistaken identity- they guy who sent them
to me thought they were Taillight Shiners - the elusive Notropis
maculatus that Mike and I hunted all over Florida for back in the 90s!
Until they do turn up - I am going to settle for the nicely colored
Sailfin Shiner- Pteranotropis hypsolepterus (probably the wrong
spelling)- but these actually may be better suited to life in a small
pool than Taillights. And they're damned pretty too. Why we passed them
over on our travels to Florida I cannot understand now.
Hope to add more fish species to the pond that I dubbed "Bromeliad
Springs" - sort of reminiscent of the various springs in Florida -
especially something that eats algae- perhaps flag fishes or mollies.
I'm getting a good bit of string algae in there- possibly because the
accumulation of nutrients in a closed water system- from fish wastes and
maybe a little runoff of fertilizer from the plants. I've been pulling
it out and composting it- also feeding some to my turtles and a brood of
tadpoles from my Marsupial Frogs.
Back in April I built a good sized run for my group of Mexican Wood
Turtles - Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima rogerbarbori bought from PetsMart
last Fall. That was a real deal considering how hard Mexican herps are
to come by these days. If only I could be so lucky to come across a
group of the Guerro subspecies - R. p. pulcherrima - which I
affectionately dubbed "P-Squares". They are similar to rogerbarbori but
with bold red dots on the pleural scutes that make them look absolutely
Also currently residing within are my two female Striped Muds -
Kinosteron baueri and a young Spotted Turtle - Clemmys guttata. And
today the order from Glades arrived - 5 Southern Toads - Bufo terrestris
and a couple of Gulf Coast Toads - B. valliceps. I was supposed to get 5
of the latter but Glades ran out and had to substitute. Actually the
Southerns are alot prettier and cuter. They are also polymorphic- come
in different color phases - browns , pale ones with darker warts and
reddish ones. Was offered Texas Toads - which I hear are somewhat
interesting but I passed on them infavor of the Southerns which I am
somewhat familair with. Regardless of species, toads are great bug
fighters which is the reason I decided to import a species indigenous to
subtropical climes for the greenhouse. Will probably have to supplement
them with crickets and mealworms when the bugs are less abundant.
Hopefully they will keep the pillbugs, earwigs (yuck) and slug
In the future I plan on adding some surplus offspring from my Andean
Marsupial Frogs- Gastrotheca riobambae , as well as a few other
amphibian species and some small lizards - Green Anoles, geckos and
maybe skinks that can patrol the higher levels. An enclosed space with a
subtropical microclimate and free roving herps is something I've dreamed
of having for years and now it's finally come to pass!
Plus I'm looking forward to being able to pick cool weather crops like
lettuce and tomatoes come winter.
Oh by the way I've got some nice Rutgars that I planted in March coming
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